Dealing with the Parents

Children are born without fear and so born without prejudice. Prejudice, like fear, is acquired … it is learned.

Dr. Martin Luther King said: “I have a dream that my four children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The most difficult thing about being married or dating Chinese men is the Parents.

With Chinese people it is very hard.  I am thinking because of the fact that they come from such a closed society.  For so long, the Chinese people have only seen various chinese faces in their country.  Even when they were attached by Japan the faces looked similar.

When the British came over here the locals did get to see a few white faces but they mostly stayed to themselves and married their own.  Slowly, more and more military men started coming over to the larger cities and mixing with the locals.  However, the Chinese men still basically stayed away from the foreign women.

They had a responsibility to their family and government to keep the race pure, basically.  Even today, the Chinese government refuses children born of mixed background to have a foreign name registered in the birth books.   If a Chinese woman has a child in China with a foreigner that baby has to carry the mother’s Chinese name to be considered Chinese.

So, when my husband and I decided we were going to get married, we had a little problem.  We didn’t know how to do it.   There were many websites and books in Chinese and English on how a foreign man can marry a Chinese woman.. but absolutely nothing for the Foreign woman and Chinese man.

It was like it the information did not exist.  I am sure it is because the city we live in is not a major Chinese city, and we were surrounded by villagers that had no idea what a foreign person looked like in person.  They only thing they had to go on was American movies, and pirated tv shows.   Which are far from up-to-date.   I had one of my students tell me how wonderful the new show..“Friends” was… and she was learning so much about American culture thru that show. This tells you how far behind China really is in our culture.

Which brings me to the way Black Americans are displayed in movies and tv shows in the states, which is how it is carried over to China.  If you are totally ignorant of other races and nationalities and their culture.. when you see  movies that portray Black people as killers, robbers, drug users, and prostitutes what do you expect them to think when they see one of us walking down the street.

Heaven forbid you bring one home and say you are going to marry her.  Of course, the first thought will be … “I don’t think so”

In my case, I had been freaking out over this meeting for months and my husband had been telling me over and over.. not to worry he will handle it.   However, I didn’t know how he was handling it or how it was progressing… I really didn’t know anything about it and it was freaking me out.

One night at about 11 pm while we were lying in bed, my husband turned to me to kiss me good night and said, “oh by the way… my dad is coming to visit us for lunch tomorrow”.. then he turned back to his side of the bed.

I stared at his turned back and said… WHAT?!… I started to get up.. he said where are you going… I said.. I need to check the apartment, make sure the dishes are done, the bathroom is clean the floor is swept… I told him .. get up don’t just lie there we have stuff to do…. He just told me don’t worry.. no problem… (well if he thought he was getting sleep now .. he was crazy because… I was wide awake)

I said… what did you tell him?… what did you say about me?… what am I going to feed him?

He laughed and said. .. I told him my girlfriend would be here… and I told him that you were a teacher… and don’t worry I will cook lunch.. you just look beautiful.

Yeah.. that didn’t help… I got up at 6 am that next morning.. and started sweeping the floor and dusting.  I took a shower and cleaned the bathroom then started trying to figure out what to wear.  I didn’t want to look too old, or too sexy, or too plain.. or really just to anything…

when I was dressed… my husband looking in the refrig to find something to prepare his phone rang… he was here…. I asked my husband.. did you tell him I was a foreigner… He said.. no? he will figure that out when he sees you…. ewww..If I survived this .. I was going to kill him.

His father walked in the door and I was standing in the middle of the livingroom.  Trying to look casual, his father looked at me… smiled and said hello and started talking to my husband, in Chinese.

He sat down and I quickly offered him some hot tea and the remote control to the TV and an ashtray… (since he had taken it upon himself to start smoking in my home).  My husband just looked at me and made the .. shhhh… signal… (I really do not like smokers in my home).

I wasnt really sure what to do after that.. so I went in to the bedroom, and checked my email.  I was later called into the dinning room to have lunch with them, I had to work in 2 hours so this wouldn’t last too long.   My husband translated some of the questions that my future father in-law asked me.  Mostly about Obama, USA and school… he was really impressed with my ability to use chopsticks.  After a fairly quiet lunch.. I left for work and made sure to shake his hand and say good-bye and thank you for coming.

That night when I got home, I quickly asked my husband what his father thought about me.  He said its okay and that his mother was coming next Sunday with him so she can meet me.  This time I had more time to prepare.  That week I thoroughly cleaned the apartment and made sure there was enough food in the refrig.   I was not getting caught off guard the mother is the deciding factor here.

The day came and I was ready.  His mother arrived with a bag of food and after she looked at me up and down.. she smiled and went into the kitchen and started preparing lunch.  I asked my husband.. what is she doing?  he said cooking… I said I can see that but why?  He said Chinese way.. don’t worry.  (I was confused)

We had lunch and I tried every dish out of respect and again was praised for my usage of chopsticks.  I again had to leave for work.. so I played the dutiful wife and made sure I said good-bye and thank you to both of them.

Again, I came home full of curiosity and again I was told .. its okay… and that his aunt will be coming next Sunday…. OMG.. this was getting ridiculous.  How many more of these meeting was I going to have to go thru.  Sunday came and went with the same pattern of lunch, his mother cooking and me being confused.

I was finally getting tired of this .. and sat my husband down and told him he needs to tell me what they are saying about me and what was going on.   He said to me… “Honey… calm down… don’t worry .. i have told them how much you mean to me, how well you treat me and take care of me.. i have told them you are intelligent, beautiful and the best thing that has every happened to me.  I told them that I love you and that I was going to marry you and they said .. okay as long as I was happy.” Sometimes, my husband .. being Chinese has a habit of keeping things inside his heart and expecting me to just know what he is thinking.   I have learned this is a Chinese habit.  They are very emotional on the inside, but you really cant see it on the outside.

I remember at a club.. a guy from America talking to me about home and we were laughing and joking about somethings that Chinese people do to us here as foreigners and just having a good time and my husband was there listening and smiling along with us.  But when we got home, he looked upset.  When I asked him what was wrong, like 5 times. .. he finally told me he was jealous.  I was like why?  He said because you talked so long with that guy.  I was amazed.  I said why didn’t you say anything… he said because you should just know.   (like that made any sense)…. I said I cant read your mind…. he said you should just know because your my wife…. (another crazy thing to say….) but in his mind, he really felt this way.

So I now always try to read his actions to see if he upset or jealous or even really happy for real..(my husband smiles a lot.. so it is confusing).  So, after a few more weeks of relative visits it finally slowed down.   Then only my in-laws started visiting every Sunday on a regular basis.

I don’t know about you guys, but this can get old fast.  And I think my husband was beginning to really notice this when … I came home on a Sunday evening and noticed that the house had been really, really cleaned..(which I knew my hubby didn’t do) … I said.. did your mother clean our house.   He said.. oh.. yeah.. she did.. she cleaned everything.. it took her like hours.

I was pissed…. the first thing that came to my mind was that .. This woman came over here and cleaned my house because she thinks I do not clean well enough… she cooks every Sunday bringing her own food.. because she doesn’t think I can take care of my husband.  She shows up every Sunday to make sure I haven’t killed him or anything… it was wearing on my nerves…. I was livid.

My husband looked at me .. and said .. what is wrong…?  of course.. I said what do you mean… he said .. your face just changed…. I told him my concerns … and he started laughing… LAUGHING.. he started laughing at me…. that did not help the situation.

After he had got his little chuckle out, and I was about to pull out a pair of chopsticks to poke him in the eye with… he wiped his eyes and said to me…. “come here… and sit down…. The reason my mother cleaned the house is because it is Chinese tradition for the mother to do that and take care of  us.  She sees that you work hard and I work hard .. so she helps us out by cleaning the house for us.. so we do not have to do that.   She brings food and cooks every Sunday to treat us… to a home cooked meal.  It is her way of showing us she cares and is trying to take care of both of us.   She left these spring rolls for you…(he held up a large bag of homemade springs rolls that were yet to be cooked) because she knows you really like them.. and she wanted you to have them during the week for your lunch at school.  The reason they come over so much is to take care of us.. not to annoy us”

I felt horrible… I really, really felt bad… if what my husband was saying was true… they really have accepted me and were trying their best.. without actually talking to me.. to show that they liked me.   However, being the skeptic I am… I needed a second opinion.

I went to work and ask some of my female coworkers about Chinese traditional family habits and the mother cleaning and coming over and cooking and they were in agreement with Michael saying this was the way that Chinese mothers and mother-in-laws  acted.  So I felt much better.

Dont think bad of me for asking for a second opinion, my husband sometimes avoids telling me things to spare my feelings.  It his way of protecting me, he doesn’t understand that I would just rather know the truth.

Now things are better, I try to communicate with them with my chinese and body language.  I have given them impressive gifts for New Year’s holiday…. (a refrigerator) and even made sure they had their electric heater repaired at our cost. My husband had informed them that we do need some Sundays to ourselves, so they have limited their visits to twice a month, instead of every week.

Chinese parents are difficult at first, and expect a lot from their kids and are a little bit controlling.  The best way is to let your husband or boyfriend handle them.  They know them better than you, and traditions, culture and things that are conditioned into people’s minds are difficult to change.  You may never change how they think, but you can change how they view you.  However, when they finally do accept you; you will feel a devotion like no other… you will also sometimes feel like they will never go away…. and you are right .. they wont.  (smile)

until next time…

20 thoughts on “Dealing with the Parents

  1. wow. count yourself fortunate.i wish i had had that kind of experience when i met my boyfriend’s parents (we’re also ambw). i’m not even going to tell you about it. but hopefully things will get better. i hope we can get to a point where we’re like you and your husband’s family. you’re really quite fortunate.

    1. I am so sorry you have to deal with difficult parents… i know it can be hard.. but think positive and .let your boyfriend handle them…. you just be yourself… kind, loving and supportive… they will come around… give them time…

      i wish you the best….and thank you for reading my blog…if you need advice on anything… i am happy to help.

  2. Such a lovely post…
    I especially enjoyed reading about how you chose to figure out your husband. Instead of you trying to change him to be more open.

    1. umm… My mother-in-law.. cooks well for chinese I guess. I am still not use to some of the things that are the normal for meals in China… for me the food tends to be a bit salty… and some are too spicy….and sometimes.. they eat animals.. i prefer not to eat.. like… turtles, frogs, snakes, hedgehogs, duck heads, silkworms, etc. So… the stuff I can stomach is not too bad… as long as it isnt looking at me or anything… another issue i have with Chinese food…

  3. Ton Tai-Tai

    This story had me misty-eyed over here 🙂

    How great that your in-laws are accepting of you–and so quickly! I’m sure you know that it is not always that way… We’re keeping hope alive though, lol.

    This is a great post, and you and your husband just sound adorable ^_^

    1. @Ton Tai-Tai … First cute name… (smile)… yeah.. I know not everyone is as blessed as I was to be accepted so quickly.. but i think it helped one.. because my husband was determined.. no matter what they said.. we were getting married.. so they needed to deal with it… and two… his parents are not very wealthy… so they can only see it as a step up for their son. I cant hellp but think that if they were a very wealthy family… that things might not have been so easy.

      Thank you for reading and your comments…

  4. Ami

    Jo, you are a doll! I loved this post of yours and it touched my heart. I sincerely hope that hubby and I get to meet you and yours one day, for lunch or something. You are truly one of a kind!

    You’re also a character. You literally have me lol every time I read one of your stories lol.


    1. @Ami… Hey it has been awhile girl… but thank you so much… I cant wait for you to move to China with your Handsome Chinese husband.. so we can face this drama together.. (smile)… maybe I should interview you and hear your story… inquiring minds want to know …(smile)

  5. David Wise

    I used to study Chinese history many years ago, so it’s always nice to learn more of the cultural aspects of China. Thanks for your insight Good luck to you!

  6. pearls

    Yes, you are truly, very blessed! I sense his parents will be more incline to cater to and nuture you more because you don’t have living parents. There are people who are more sensitive to that matter than others. I know that my mother was like that.

    Big Heart-warming Smile! Re lesson learned. I thoroughly understood your view, as well. Yet, for whatever reason, this thought process is innately ingrained in the male psyche. As one who’s been curious about ‘why’ things are the way they are when it comes to males. My curiosity led me to talk to many males of various ages on various subjects over the years (beginning in my teen years).
    From my own father, brothers, boyfriends, co-workers (different races), etc., the answers were basically the same. I’m just aware of the advantages of going with the flow when needed, which = harmony! It’s not to take away from us women with out-going personalities!

    By the way, my AA dad said the same thing to me many years ago about us being actually one year older. His explanation perturbed my mother, but I understood it. Maybe being one year older wasn’t something to leap for joy about in her viewpoint. Which is probably why one of her friends stayed 39 years old for 20+ years! LOL! Be Blessed!

  7. randomthoughtsfromcali

    What a great story! It really does illustrate how BW must be cognizant of the cultural norms of their significant others. If you don’t mind, I’m going to put this link up on the Beyond Black & White fan page.

    It really was a great read. Hope that book is coming soon!

    1. Sista girl.. you know you are always welcome to link my page to your blog anytime… and the book is moving along.. my goal.. is self publish it here in China in two languages and sell it to the states and china.. look at me go…. the book that keeps on giving…

  8. pearls

    Another wonderful story! First, I must tell you how funny you both are during this time, even though, the situation was quite challenging to your emotions for sure.

    I can understand your husband’s viewpoint about conversing with men (strangers) for a very long time while in his presence. That’s traditional knowledge even here in the states. It’s called consideration! Acknowledge the person’s presence and move on! Some may not agree, yet it is what it is and has always been that way, regardless of race and cultural background. It’s totally different from being by yourself or with your girlfriends. He’s out to show you off with him!

    Regarding his parents, you’re a very wise woman, married to a very wise man! His parents knows he’s happy…he needed time to assure them of that which didn’t take long (compared to some peoples life time of trying to assure). Parents know when their child is telling the truth or not, regardless of the age of that child! So with that, enjoy the house cleaning with love and acceptance! Be Blessed!

    1. Okay.. yeah.. yeah.. I know.. I am suppose to move on.. but when you are in a country where you rarely see people from your own country.. you get excited to finally see someone that has your same experiences. And my husband was there.. and the gentleman was including him in the conversation. But I understand your point… lesson learned..

      As for my new parent’s in law…. you know.. you made an observation that I wanted to address.. my husband is a very wise man.. beyond his years.. he is only 27.. in USA that is 26 years old.. the chinese have two birthdays…. they think when you are born you are one year old.. and every new year .. your a year older… dont ask me it is another traditional thing. Anyway.. at his age…. you do not expect someone to be so mature thinking and wise…that is why .. if people are wondering… our 14 year difference doesnt seem like that big of a difference in age. We are mentally on the same level.. and have the same outlook on life.. it is like .. we have met in another life… in another time… like we belong…. strange.. i know…

      And as for my mother in law.. i can get use to her cleaning my house.. and cooking… my parents have passed away.. so they are actually the only parents I have…I am truly blessed.

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